Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

With a distinguished career in education and career readiness, VCCS Research Specialist Yvonne Thayer, EdD knows the American workplace will be transformed in the coming years by automation and Artificial Intelligence, and says it will be up to institutions of higher education, including Virginia’s Community Colleges, to provide lifelong learning opportunities to help people keep up with the change.

A new report from McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2030, a third of U.S. jobs could be automated, affecting up to 73 million positions now held by people. The technical revolution will not be purely destructive; it also will create millions of new jobs that need to be filled.

Thayer says the world is in the midst of another Industrial Revolution, driven by advances in digital technology, advanced robotics and advanced materials.


Thayer told participants at the VCCS’s 2017 Hire Education Conference, “Whether you think disruption is positive or negative, it’s happening. …We can’t just sit on the sidelines and wait, we must be prepared.”

As the pace of technological innovation continues to accelerate, American employers will scramble to find workers with the right skills. And community colleges will be challenged to measure up to their legacy role of preparing a capable workforce.

In addition to embracing automation, companies increasingly will hire contract workers rather than long-term employees, and more people will stay in the workforce later in life. That means Americans will need more opportunities to learn the skills required to be viable employees in the 21ST century.

“As the marketplace evolves, it will be up to community colleges to be nimble and provide the training that people need,” said Thayer, adding, “And it will be a competitive educational environment; community colleges won’t be the only institutions teaching workplace skills.”

“We can fear the future, or embrace the opportunity. It’s up to us,” she said.'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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